The Peninsula Campaign (also known as the Peninsular Campaign) of the American Civil War was a major Union operation launched in southeastern Virginia from March through July 1862, the first large-scale offensive in the Eastern Theater. The operation, commanded by Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, was an amphibious turning movement against the Confederate States Army in Northern Virginia, intended to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. McClellan was initially successful against the equally cautious General Joseph E. Johnston, but the emergence of the aggressive General Robert E. Lee turned the subsequent Seven Days Battles into a humiliating Union defeat. Contents: Preface. Chapter 1 - General Mcclellan And The Army Of The Potomac. Chapter 2 - Campaign Plans. Chapter 3 - Active Operations.-Siege Of Yorktown. Chapter 4 - Forward From Yorktown-Battle Of Williamsburg. Chapter 5 - To The Chickahominy - Mcdowell - Jackson In The Shenandoah Valley-Affair Of Hanover Court House. Chapter 6 - Battle Of Fair Oaks. Chapter 7 - Withdrawal To The James.-The "Seven Days" Battle." Battle Of Gaines' Mill Battle Of Allen's Farm. Battle Of Savage's Station. Battle Of Glendale, Or Nelson's Farm. Chapter 8 - Battle Of Malvern Hill. Chapter 9 - Termnation Of The Campaign
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Campaigns Of The Civil War Vol. 3 - The Peninsula
General Alexander Stewart Webb
Chapter 1 - General Mcclellan And The Army Of The Potomac.
Chapter 2 - Campaign Plans.
Chapter 3 - Active Operations.—Siege Of Yorktown.
Chapter 4 - Forward From Yorktown-Battle Of Williamsburg.
Chapter 5 - To The Chickahominy — Mcdowell — Jackson In The Shenandoah Valley—Affair Of Hanover Court House.
Chapter 6 - Battle Of Fair Oaks.
Chapter 7 - Withdrawal To The James.—The "Seven Days” Battle."
Battle Of Gaines' Mill
Battle Of Allen's Farm.
Battle Of Savage's Station.
Battle Of Glendale, Or Nelson's Farm.
Chapter 8 - Battle Of Malvern Hill.
Chapter 9 – Termnation Of The Campaign
Campaigns of the Civil War Vol. 3, A. S. Webb
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Germany
To be of any practical use, all history, and particularly military history, must be gradually sifted and reduced to small compass. To carry out this idea, the publishers have asked the writer to prepare for them, in a condensed form, that part of the History of the War of the Rebellion which includes the operations of the Army of the Potomac from the assumption of the command of that army by General McClellan, in July, 1861, to its arrival at Harrison's Landing, in July, 1862.
So much has been written on this subject that it would not at first appear to be a difficult matter to condense the various accounts ; but to the writer's task has been added the special work required in comparing and collating for careful investigation the new material gathered by the War Department, and now for the first time made the basis of a history of that period. The results of that labor he resents in these pages.
An actor himself in everything here treated of, he has in a large measure been guided in his research by his memory of scenes never to be effaced, but not by the false impressions of those days, with which, on most occasions, he was heartily in accord. In speaking of the " President of the United States and his advisers," he must not be understood as recalling or changing at any time his constant and repeated expressions of admiration, affection and regard for the President himself. He appeals to the closing chapter, reviewing the whole work of the army during the twelve months covered by this volume, to prove that he is as loyal to that noble man's memory as ever he was to him in person, and is but doing the work of an honest historian in recording the sad tale of the want of unity, the want of confidence, the want of co-operation between the Administration and the General commanding the army.
In this work we cannot give in extenso the most important of the better-known documents, so often printed by the writers on both sides of the questions which arose between General McClellan and the Administration, and omit everyone not absolutely necessary to a proper understanding of the narrative. We hope, however, that the attention of thinking men will be attracted to a more thorough investigation of the questions not yet settled, and that this work will serve as an aid to any one who desires to seek what is the vital lesson to be derived from our failure on the Peninsula.
We have been unable to do justice to many of our most gallant officers or to their commands, by giving in full the history of their achievements during this campaign. We have been limited in the space assigned to this narrative, and we have been forced to choose between repeating the well-known accounts of various battles and giving from new data the proof of the restless and daring activity of the Rebels who fought us. We have chosen the latter course, believing that there is a public demand for information of this kind. Our sketch of the campaign will, we hope, serve as a reliable introduction to a larger volume.
We are under especial obligations to Secretary of War Lincoln, to Secretary of the Navy Hunt, to Colonel Robert N. Scott, of the Bureau of Archives in the War Department, to Generals Wright, Meigs, Barnes, Humphreys, Keyes, and others, for their continued kindness in furnishing maps and documents, during the four months in which we have been engaged in the preparation of this volume.
NEW YORE CITY, November, 1881.
WHEN the Union troops returned to Washington from the disastrous field of Manassas, or the better known Bull Run, the usual results of a defeat, where the forces engaged have been raw levies led by untried and unskilled commanders, were presented to the general Government. The capital of the nation was almost within the lines of the rebellious territory. All that was most demoralized or least apt to present either a truthful or fair account of the incidents of the few past days swarmed in the streets of Washington, and through the medium of a sensitive press spread alarm on every side. From such a presentation of the situation in front, it was not to be expected that the Government, surrounded by every evidence of the complete discomfiture of its main army, would be found either ready to view the reverses calmly or to act with the boldness and promptitude which the sudden events then demanded. Centreville, the key-point, or point of safety, twenty miles in advance of Washington, was given up; the reserves, under Colonel Miles, were allowed to leave it; and the whole force of the nation was immediately called into action to solve the great problem—how to regain the abandoned position and finally compel the submission of the enemy.
The rebels, at first no wiser than ourselves, were there taught that, by a little attention to our general tardiness or want of prompt decision in cases of emergency, they might hold their interior lines for an indefinite period. Men on the defensive are receptive scholars, and we found that our adversaries had learned this great lesson still more perfectly after our bitter experience in the Peninsula campaign. On July 21st the streets of Washington were crowded with stragglers from the Army of the Potomac. On July 22d, General George B. McClellan was relieved from command of the Army of the West, and that command was given to General W. S. Rosecrans. On July 27th, General McClellan, by order of President Lincoln, assumed control of the lately defeated troops in the vicinity of the capital.
Who was this new general selected to produce order and organize our armies?
George Brinton McClellan was born in Philadelphia, December 3, 1826. He entered the Military Academy in June, 1842, and graduated in June, 1846. After serving under Captain A. J. Smith and Lieutenant Gustavus W. Smith, with the new engineer company of sappers and miners at West Point, he sailed for the army in Mexico in September, 1846, and served with especial distinction until the army under General Scott entered the capital, on September 14, 1847. For distinguished services and personal gallantly he was breveted first lieutenant and captain, to date from the day of the capture of that city. He served at West Point with the Engineer Company; with Captain Randolph B. Marcy, Fifth Infantry, in making the explorations of the country embraced within the basin of the upper Ked River; on the staff of General Persifer F. Smith, in Texas, as Chief Engineer; under Governor Isaac I. Stevens, of Washington Territory, examining the lines of the forty-seventh and forty-ninth parallels of north latitude, and determining a railroad route from the head waters of the Mississippi to Puget Sound; was detailed to select a coaling-station in the West Indies; and employed on duties in Washington connected with the Pacific Railroad surveys. In all these various positions he exhibited the largest capacity and the most commendable zeal. As a reward and as an exhibit of the special favor in which he was held by the United States Government, he was appointed one of the Military Commission to Europe to observe the operations in the Crimea. With him were associated General Delafield and Major Mordecai, then majors in the regular army.
At that time he was in his twenty-ninth year, and was one of the youngest captains in the United States Army. Returning from this duty, after hard mental labor, and after gaining a valuable experience as an officer, he served in various stations until 1857, when he resigned his commission and accepted the appointment of Chief Engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad, of which corporation he was made Vice President in a very short period. In 1860 he was chosen President of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, and resided in Cincinnati until the war of the rebellion.
When the rebels had taken Sumter, and the North was turning to the graduates of the military academy for assistance and direction in the organization of the new troops to be ordered into the field, Governor William Denison, of Ohio, naturally sought the advice and counsel of George B. McClellan, and finally appointed him Major-General of the " Militia Volunteers " of that State. His friends realized that he had a heavy task before him, but his large experience and general military education rendered him equal to its requirements, and he readily organized, equipped, and put in the field the Army of the Department of the Ohio. As the result of his operations in Western Virginia the Government of the United States received from that army the glad intelligence of the rout of Garnett and Pegram, on July 12 and 13, 1861. It was, therefore, but natural that he should have been summoned to Washington to recreate the army which was destined to defend the capital for the next three years.
From July 27th to October 31st, General McClellan remained in command of the Army of the Potomac only, until, on November 1st, he assumed control of the armies of the United States in accordance with General Order No. 94.
His own order of that date is noteworthy, as coming from so young an officer on assuming so vast a responsibility. His subsequent orders to General Buell, in charge of the Department of the Ohio, and General Halleck, in charge of that of the Missouri, together with his letters to General Sherman, commanding at Port Royal, and to General Butler in the Southwest, show the vigor of thought and the grasp of the man who had been called to the prosecution of a war which extended over half the continent. He perfected a grand scheme, in which all the armies were to bear their part, and
in which the Army of the Potomac had only its subordinate movements assigned to it.
General McClellan became the Commander-in-Chief of the forces of the United States through the expressed will of the people and with the approval of the veteran General Scott. No higher compliment could have been paid the new commander than that contained in the message of
President Lincoln, in December, 1861, when he says, that "the retiring chief expressed his judgment in favor of General McClellan for the position, and in this the nation seemed to give an unanimous concurrence."
Such was the man who was to command the Army of the Potomac in its campaign against Richmond. No one had then the right to complain or to protest against his appointment. He was at that date our most successful general.
He accepted the full responsibility devolved upon him, and the nation has much to thank him for. It was he who organized, equipped, and trained, with skill, that grand body of troops which for four long years "confronted the strongest, best appointed, and most confident army in the South."
Upon reaching Washington, on July 27, 1861, the General found the forces in and around the city numbering about fifty thousand infantry, less than one thousand cavalry, and six hundred and fifty artillerymen, with nine imperfect field-batteries of thirty pieces and four hundred horses. No more faithful picture of the situation there could be presented than is to be found in the General's own report, as follows:
"On the Virginia bank of the Potomac the brigade organization of General McDowell still existed, and the troops were stationed at and in rear of Forts Corcoran, Arlington, and Fort Albany, at Fort Runyon, Roach's Mills, Cole's Mills, and in the vicinity of Fort Ellsworth, with a detachment at the Theological Seminary, near Alexandria. There were no troops south of Hunting Creek, and many of the regiments were encamped on the low grounds bordering the Potomac — seldom in the best positions for defence, and entirely inadequate in numbers and condition to defend the long line from Fort Corcoran to Alexandria. On the Maryland side of the river, upon the heights overlooking the Chain Bridge, two regiments were stationed, whose commanders were independent of each other. There were no troops on the important Tenallytown road, or on the roads entering the city from the south. The camps were located without regard to purposes of defence or instruction; the roads were not picketed, and there was no attempt at an organization into brigades.
"In no quarter were the dispositions for defence such as to offer a vigorous resistance to a respectable body of the enemy, either in the positions or numbers of the troops, or the number and character of the defensive works. Earthworks, in the nature of tetes-de-pont looked upon the approaches to the Georgetown aqueduct and ferry, the Long Bridge, and Alexandria, by the Little River Turnpike, and some simple defensive arrangements were made at the Chain Bridge. With the latter exception, not a single defensive work had been constructed on the Maryland side. There was nothing to prevent the enemy from shelling the city from the opposite heights, which were within easy range, and which could have been occupied by a hostile column almost without resistance. Many soldiers had deserted, and the streets of Washington were crowded with straggling officers and men, absent from their stations without authority, whose behavior indicated the general want of discipline and organization."
General McClellan immediately appointed his general staff, and the work of receiving, organizing, and preparing for the field an enormous army was forthwith undertaken. On October 27, 1861, he officially reported to the Secretary of War that on that date there were present far duty 147,695 men, with an aggregate strength of 168,318. Of this number, 4,268 cavalry were completely unarmed, 3,163 partially armed, 5,979 infantry unequipped — making 13,410 unfit for the field, but leaving an effective force of 134,285. He states that be had 76,285 men disposable for an advance, but had but two hundred and twenty-eight artillery pieces ready for the field, and required one hundred and twelve more. This seems to have been a rapid increase for the army in ninety days, being an addition of 40,000 men per month.*
Proceeding to its efficient organization, the General formed the new levies of infantry, upon their arrival in Washington, into professional brigades, and stationed them in the suburbs of the city to be perfected by instruction and discipline. Brigadier-General F. J. Porter was at first assigned to the charge of these brigades. He was followed by Brigadier-General A. E. Burnside, who, in turn, was soon after relieved by Brigadier-General Silas Casey, who continued in charge of the constantly arriving regiments until the Army embarked for the Peninsula in March, 1862. The new artillery troops reported to Brigadier-General "William F. Barry,the Chief of Artillery, and the cavalry to Brigadier-General George Stoneman, Chief of Cavalry.
By the opening of the spring of 1862 the expectations of General McClellan appear to have been realized in the creation of as noble a body of men as could have been raised, under similar circumstances, the world over. Exclusive of detachments necessary to garrison the defences of Washington and Alexandria, to retain Manassas and Warrenton, to watch the Valley of the Shenandoah, and guard the Maryland shore of the Potomac, both above and below the capital, which together mustered fifty-five thousand strong, the army proper, intended by its commander to act as a solid body for field operations, represented a force, on the rolls, of 158,000 men. At the close of this volume is inserted a roster showing its final composition and organization, to which the interested reader may wish to refer. From an examination of the tables there given, we may deduce much that would seem to secure to the General-in-Chief, for his labors, the respect and admiration of his countrymen. At the same time, to have been enabled to establish a force of such proportions and efficiency within a few months, he must necessarily have received from the general Government, from the governors of the several States, and from the various bureaus and offices under the War Department, the most cordial and largest assistance. Without that support, and without almost superhuman efforts on their part, such an army could never have been created.
It was an army, furthermore, which was thoroughly representative; an army of volunteers, composing, with the armies elsewhere in the field, the nation's posse comitatus. The troops immediately under the leadership of General McClellan, in March, 1862—this Army of the Potomac—were drawn, naturally, from the Eastern and Atlantic States of the Union, as the armies operating along the lines of the Tennessee and Mississippi were recruited, in the main, from the Central States and the great Northwest. The New England States contributed a quota of some thirty-five regiments; New York, seventy; New Jersey, ten; Pennsylvania, sixty; Delaware, one; Maryland, nine (posted chiefly along the Potomac) ; while Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were also in line with from one to three thousand men each. The little corps of regulars, mustering in August, 1861, only a thousand strong, had been increased by April 30, 1862, to a respectable and highly effective brigade of 4,600, rank and file, under Brigadier-General George Sykes, then Major of the Third Infantry. Irrespective of the latter, the mass of the army was composed of intelligent voters, coming from every walk in life. It represented the bone and sinew of the land, its truest homes and best industries, its humblest, its toiling, its prosperous, and its educated classes alike. They were men, the vast majority of them, who thoroughly understood the merits of the struggle, who appreciated the value of the principle at stake, who believed they were right, and were ready to support their convictions and their Government with their blood. It was, indeed, a people's cause and a people's war. Bull Hun had neither dispirited nor overawed them. That defeat had served only to bring into clearer light the magnitude and desperate character of the work in hand, and they girded their loins for the emergency. They were, in a word, as they have been and always must be described, an organized collection of citizen-soldiers, who did not despair of the Union, and only prayed that they might be ably led against the enemy, that their services and sacrifices might contribute decisively to success.
NECESSARILY, soon after assuming his duties as Commander-in-Chief, General McClellan turned his attention to the entire field of operations, treating the Army of the Potomac as only one, although the most important of the several armies under his control. Already, as Department Commander, he had prepared for the President, at the latter's request, a memorandum setting forth his views as to the proper method of suppressing the rebellion, which views he still retained, and upon which, it is generally claimed by his friends, the subsequent successful campaigns were practically based. He proposed to strike at two centres, East and West—Richmond and Nashville—moving thus into the heart of secession; while, at the same time, expeditionary forces were to assail the principal points on the coast, and on and beyond the Mississippi. War all along the line was his purpose. While he himself marched down into Virginia, General Buell, in Eastern Kentucky, was to secure that State, relieve Eastern Tennessee, and then point to Nashville; General Halleck was to look after the troublesome State of Missouri, and Western Kentucky, and Tennessee; General Burnside was to occupy the coast of North Carolina; General T. W. Sherman was to seize Savannah, but chiefly to prepare to regain Charleston ; for by the capture of that city, " the greatest moral effect would be produced," as it was the birthplace of the rebellion, and "the centre of the boasted power and courage of the rebels ;" and lastly, General Butler was to attempt the recovery of New Orleans, by which, the eventual control of the Mississippi could be more easily established.
That this extensive plan might work effectually, General McClellan aimed to deliver the meditated blows, or the principal ones, simultaneously. The responsibility, accordingly, devolved upon him to have everything ready everywhere at the proper moment. This alone would have been a great task, especially as he claims that no general plan existed before his assumption of the chief command, and that he was wholly ignorant of the "utter disorganization and want of preparation" that pervaded the Western armies. "The labor of creation and organization had to be performed there" as well as in the East, says the General; and by January 1, 1862, the forward movement was still delayed. Several months thus passed devoted to preparation, and the country for the most part, understanding that the inaction was necessary, quietly awaited the compensating results that were expected to follow when active movements should begin.
But the trouble was that the delay was protracted too long, even for a patient people. The fall of 1861 passed, and the rebels were as strong as ever and more defiant. The following winter also promised to be one of stagnation, especially for the Army of the Potomac, and soon toward the close of 1861, and in the beginning of 1862, much curiosity and uneasiness was betrayed respecting the intentions of the new and then popular Commander-in-Chief. The latter, however, was clearly determined not to be hurried. As late as February 3, 1862, he wrote to the President, "I have ever regarded our true policy as being that of fully preparing ourselves, and then seeking for the most decisive results;" and it was not until a short time before that date, that he disclosed his own plan of campaign in Virginia to the Government authorities. His inaction he reported to be unavoidable. Preparations for the execution of the general plan—the simultaneous movement—were incomplete. He had hoped that everything would have been ready to take advantage of the good weather in the previous December, but it was not. His own army even, he declared, was not yet in condition to take the field. "We are still delayed," he told the President, in his February letter, and, furthermore, gave no hint as to the time when he should be completely ready.
How this unfortunate situation might have been avoided— what General McClellan ought to have done during those six months his army remained around Washington—is a speculative question which we do not feel called upon to consider. It will be enough to discuss the plan for action which he finally did propose, and to follow out his movements in the field when actually undertaken. That the delay, however satisfactory or unsatisfactory his own explanation and defence of it may be regarded, worked to his disadvantage and paved the way for future distrust of his generalship, is certain. He drew too heavily upon the faith of the public. By March 1st the nation had incurred a debt of §600,000,000 for the war; while the results were far from commensurate with such a cost. Dissatisfaction arose, especially at Washington, in Government circles, and in Congress. Criticisms were freely indulged in. The General, in addition, kept his councils to himself, consulted with but one or two favorite officers, and seemed to hold close relations with men not in political sympathy with the Administration. All this gave umbrage in high places; and it became the more incumbent upon him to act, to act speedily, energetically, and successfully, if he hoped to retain the confidence of the powers to which he was amenable, or entitle himself to the obligations of a grateful people.
At length General McClellan was compelled to divulge his plans and move forward; and this brings us to some important points in the history of the campaign. Among those who deeply felt the necessity of renewing the advance upon the enemy, was President Lincoln. An immense and oppressive responsibility rested upon his shoulders. He was constantly anxious both in success and defeat; and extremely anxious now, at the close of the year 1861. The situation was anything but satisfactory. In October previous, the disastrous affair of Ball's Bluff had occurred, in which Colonel Baker, lately of the Senate, lost his life. The rebels, also, had blocked the navigation of the Potomac by planting batteries on the Virginia side twenty or thirty miles down the river ; and their flag floated insultingly, from their advanced works on Munson's Hill, in sight of Washington. These untoward circumstances, and the inactivity of McClellan, seemed to have prompted the President, as early as December 1st, to propose informally to the General, a plan of attack upon the enemy—his idea being that a column of 50,000 men should menace and hold the rebels at their Centreville position, while 50,000 more—part going by the Potomac, and part by land—should move to Occoquan Creek below, and place themselves nearer to Richmond than the main body of the enemy were at Centreville. This is interesting, not only as being the first plan, so far as the writer can discover from the records, suggested for the campaign, but as emanating from Mr. Lincoln himself, who made no pretensions to military knowledge; thus disclosing his intense desire that something should be done.
Up to this time, General McClellan had given no intimation of his own plans, other than the general assertion, made in the latter part of October, that " the crushing defeat of the rebel army at Manassas," was the great object to be accomplished; and that the advance upon it "should not be postponed beyond November 25th." On December 10th, however, he wrote a confidential note to the President, apparently in answer to the latter's proposal, in which he impliedly disapproved of it, by stating that he believed the enemy's force to be equal to his own; and then added, " I have now my mind actually turned toward another plan of campaign that I do not think at all anticipated by the enemy, nor by many of our own people." This is the first hint we have that any plan was taking shape in the General's mind; and the first that foreshadowed the final move to the Peninsula. It will be observed, that here was the possibility of a serious conflict of opinion. In case the President and the General matured plans diametrically opposed to each other, which was to be followed? What is our highest military authority? According to the Constitution, it is the President, Commander-in-Chief of all the land and naval forces of the United States. But if the President disclaims all military ability, as Mr. Lincoln did, it still becomes a question how far he should defer the conduct of a war to his generals commanding in the field. In the closing chapter of this work certain precedents are adduced upon this point, showing the position assumed by our Presidents during the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. They asserted their right to disapprove and interfere, and the propriety of their interference seemed to be justified. There never was any question in President Lincoln's case, as to his right to order and direct; but the dilemma lay here—whose plans and advice should he follow where it was necessary for him to approve and decide, where he did not or would not trust his own judgment? Should he lean implicitly on the general actually in command of the armies, placed there by virtue of his presumed fitness for the position, or upon other selected advisers? We are bold to say that it was doubt and hesitation upon this point, that occasioned many of the blunders of the campaign. Instead of one mind, there were many minds influencing the management of military affairs. To one source of this influence, beyond the members of the President's Cabinet, who were by right his advisers, we must revert. This was the Joint Committee of Congress, appointed in December, 1801, to inquire into the conduct of the war. Its members were Hons. Benjamin F. Wade, of Ohio, Zachariah Chandler, of Michigan, and Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, from the Senate; and Hons. Daniel W. Gooch, of Massachusetts, John Covode, of Pennsylvania, George W. Julian, of Indiana, and Moses F. Odell, of New York, from the House of Representatives. Organizing December 20th, with Senator Wade as chairman, it proceeded to summon many of the general officers of the army to obtain their views as to its efficiency, and the best lines of advance upon the enemy. It was a strong representative committee, and not only held consultations with the President and the new Secretary of War, Hon. Edwin M. Stanton, but also with the President and his entire Cabinet. No record of these interviews appears to have been preserved; but no one can doubt their effect upon the Administration in influencing its action. Executive, Cabinet and Committee, were in earnest in their wish to prosecute the war to a speedy and successful termination.
In common with the President and the country at large, this Committee was entirely dissatisfied with the prolonged inactivity of the Army of the Potomac. The members were especially mortified and indignant that the rebels should have been suffered to blockade the Potomac River so long, preventing free access by water to the capital of the nation, and thereby seriously affecting our delicate relations abroad. They demanded from the Secretary of War that the blockade should be raised—the chairman, on one occasion, using "pretty strong and emphatic language" on the subject in the presence of both the Secretary and General McClellan; and in their report the Committee lay the blame upon the General, who, in his report, holds the navy accountable. Again, the Committee examined many officers on the subject of organizing the army into corps; and finding great unanimity as to the necessity of such organization, pressed the matter upon the attention of the President more than once. Their last consultation with him on this subject occurred on March 5th, when he promised to take the matter “into earnest and serious consideration." Three days later, on the 8th, he promulgated an order dividing the army into four army corps, to the command of which Generals McDowell, Sumner, Heintzelman, and Keyes were assigned. The order was contrary to the wishes of McClellan, who proposed to defer the organization until after active operations had opened. The Committee, furthermore, obtained opinions from officers as to the best line of attack for the army to follow; and seemed to have become impressed with the superior advantages of a direct advance upon Centreville. That its preferences were known to the President, can hardly be questioned. Indeed, without a particular examination of the proceedings of this important Committee and a proper estimate of its influence, the action of Mr. Lincoln and his Cabinet, in certain matters affecting this campaign, cannot be fully understood. That body must be counted among the President's most influential advisers. It was a power during the war.
Returning to the plan of the campaign, we find that Mr. Lincoln, who on December 1st had suggested operating against the enemy in front and flank, took up the matter again early in January following, by seeking the opinions of a few of the more prominent generals in the army. General McClellan had had the misfortune of falling ill about the middle of December, and was confined to his house for nearly a month. Mr. Lincoln, more than ever exercised and worried over the delays, called in Generals McDowell and Franklin, and in a confidential interview inquired as to the possibility of soon commencing active operations with the Army of the Potomac. The President stated that "if something was not soon done, the bottom would be out of the whole affair." A day or two later these officers, who had consulted with Quartermaster-General Meigs and others, reported, that of the two lines of attack considered—one direct upon the enemy, the other by moving the army to another base down the Chesapeake—they advised the former, which could be undertaken in three weeks, (General Franklin, it seems, favored a movement by way of the York Rivet; and so testified before the Committee on the Conduct of the War; but according to General McDowell's statements (in Swinton) he deferred his plan in favor of a direct attack on the enemy as the most feasible at that rime, namely, in January, and because of the President's wish for immediate action). General McClellan, recovering from his illness, and finding that "excessive anxiety for an immediate movement of the Army of the Potomac had taken possession of the minds of the Administration," finally unfolded his plan of operations to the President, which contemplated an attack upon Richmond by the lower Chesapeake. He was not in favor of a direct attack upon the enemy at Centreville. But the President had now become confirmed in his preference for the latter plan by the opinions of McDowell, Franklin and Meigs; and undoubtedly, as stated above, by the known preferences of the Committee on the Conduct of the War. We thus find the two leaders upon whom the eyes of the nation were then fixed—Mr. Lincoln and General McClellan—at issue with each other at a most critical moment.
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